Nashville green building becoming a new trend

Nashville green building becoming a new trend

by Eric Hartz

Although Tennessee has just one LEED-certified home, that should change in the next few months as one project undergoes certification and construction begins on several more. There are between 25 and 30 residential projects in the Nashville area that are being built to LEED standards, according to Mark West, the Middle Tennessee Residential Green Building Advocate for the U.S. Green Building Council.

"A lot has been happening in the last 12 months," West says. "The pot has been stirred."

One new project belongs to Lawrence Brothers Construction, which won the USGBC Middle Tennessee Chapter's Green Star Award "for excellence and devotion to high-performance sustainable building practices" in 2007 for its project at Morgan Park Place East.

Phase I of the project involved certifying 15 townhouses, carriage houses and flats to EarthCraft House standards. In Phase II, which was recently completed, the Lawrence Brothers built nine more units to LEED gold level and one unit to LEED platinum, making it the first LEED platinum home in Nashville.

"The main difference [between EarthCraft and LEED] was in the planning and being careful about where the materials come from - you have to demonstrate that you considered conservation, and you have to have the documentation," says Skip Lawrence, the chief managing officer for Lawrence Brothers Construction. "With LEED, you have to make sure everyone is on board, from your subcontractors on up."

The homes at Morgan Park Place East all feature Energy Star appliances and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, including tankless hot water heaters, compact fluorescent lights with sensors, low VOC paints, bamboo wood floors, carpets made of recycled materials and extensive sealing of the house envelope. Outside, the irrigation system can save up to 100,000 gallons a month.

"I love the comprehensive nature [of LEED]," Lawrence says. "It's not just looking at any one part, but at the building as a whole."

JBS Custom Builders also has LEED Platinum plans for a six-unit townhouse complex called the Acropolis. Construction recently began on the project, which is JBS's first green venture. It's slated to open in the spring of 2009 and aims for LEED platinum status.

The luxury townhouses, which will overlook Nashville's Centennial Park, will be made from recycled brick and Indiana limestone, and will feature soy-based spray insulation and a rainwater harvesting system that will be used to irrigate the property's landscaping, as well as a high-efficiency heating and cooling system.

"We're trying to use the best and most efficient technology out there," Ellis says. "But we also want them to look very attractive."

The one existing LEED-certified home in Nashville is a prominent one - the residence of former vice president Al Gore in Belle Meade.

The vice president - who won an Academy Award and Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his efforts as an environmentalist - and his wife, Tipper, updated their home with a geothermal heating and cooling system, new insulation, landscaping, irrigation and a rainwater collection system. Other green features of the Gore's home include solar panels, new light bulbs and motion sensors and updates to the insulation and ductwork.


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